How To Answer “What Is Your Greatest Accomplishment” Interview Question

Staff, Rocket Interview

One of the 5 themes in behavioral interviews is “Accomplishment,”  and when answering a question on this theme, it is helpful to consider two areas to highlight:

  • The “How”:  Your accomplishment can be relevant to the organization and/or job you are applying for.  One way to demonstrate relevance is to show how you achieved the accomplishment (e.g., the skills you exhibited or your mindset in achieving the accomplishment) and ensure that some of those traits are important for the job.
  • The “Why”:  Explain why you are proud of this accomplishment.  What do you value in the accomplishment?.  For example, maybe you value accomplishments related to one of the following:
      • Growing revenue
      • Solving complex problems
      • Enabling others in the organization

The question might be phrased as your “greatest” or  “proudest” accomplishment, and they may also specify that it be a professional accomplishment.

No matter how it is asked, here is how You Ace This Question, in the early or later interview rounds.

Applying the STAR Framework (Situation-Task-Actions-Results)

 

The Actions

Try to outline actions that are related to work you will be doing in the job so that the interviewer clearly connects the dots between your story of accomplishment and how it enhances your candidacy for the job.

Two types of actions that are powerful to highlight are:

  • Interaction:  Actions where you had to interact with other stakeholders, potentially cross-functional colleagues across a variety of disciplines (e.g., product, engineering, finance, marketing).  While you are the “lead actor” of the story, it is also important that the interviewer understands how you work in a team, especially since some of the best accomplishments tend to happen when you’re operating in a team environment.  {Note that this can include how you resolved conflict in a team environment]
  • ProblemSolving:  This is a great action that lends itself to a deeper conversation.  Some of the types of problems you could discuss are:
      • Innovation:  A new problem that required innovation.  This is an opportunity to show your creativity in problem-solving and an ability to pioneer solutions in unchartered territory, which is especially compelling as many companies are undergoing some sort of change.
      • Scarcity:  Often some of best problem-solving stories come from not having enough resources (e.g., people, investment) or time.  Showing how you navigate these situations will show a company that you can be gritty and will figure out ways to solve problems even with limited resources (especially important for startups and many companies facing tight budgets).

The Results

Often candidates just stop at the actions, or understate the Results, for example by saying “…and we accomplished our objective.”  But this is your opportunity to go deeper and explain to the interviewer what excites you about that accomplishment and why was it meaningful to you.  So take this time to tell them why you were proud of it.

Two types of results that are powerful to highlight are:

  • Breadth of results:  Think through and articulate the breadth of results. It’s not just about achieving this discrete objective but it could also be about how others were impacted and how the business was impacted.  You might also frame up the near term success as well as the long-term success. 
  • Meaningful outcomes:  Expressing why this result is meaningful and important to you is an indicator of the types of results you enjoy driving, and is a signal to the employer on the types of results you will be motivated to deliver.  For example, sales candidates often talk about closing a big deal and growing revenue while product managers often talk about bringing a new product to market.  This helps to further differentiate your candidacy as you give the interviewer clarity on the type of work you value.

An Example

 

Situation and Task

  • “I’m going to tell you about a time I was an operations analyst at Amazon. And I was specifically working in the consumer electronics small business division.”
  • “And what I saw that was happening on the platform was that some small businesses were gradually leaving the Amazon platform and it was because they were having excessive returns on very low margin products and small businesses could not deal with the repercussions of having low working capital and having to process returns.”

Actions

  • “I spearheaded an initiative to do a deep data dive on the products and consumer segments that were impacted the most.”
  • “As part of this I started doing the root cause analysis to figure out what was the reason behind these returns.” 
  • “I partnered with the consumer insights team to get access to abroader set of data and to figure out what was going on in  other parts of the business outside of small business and outside of consumer products.”
  • “I took some hypotheses to the actual small business partners and I started building a relationship with them and asking them for their insights and sharing with them the insights we had uncovered.”
  • “Based on these insights, I partnered with the product team to design a new experience including a new workflow for buying electronic products from small businesses.”

Results

Ultimately the results that came out of this were a few:

  • “Firstly, small businesses started coming back onto the Amazon platform.”
  • “Secondly, Amazon SMB revenue grew.”
  • “But more important and more fulfilling for me was the fact that I built a strong relationship with these SMB partners and I  was able to play a key role in enabling their success.”
  • “And that is what I find most fulfilling about this  accomplishment”

Guiding Principles

  • Ensure the story is not just about you. It’s important that you reflect on how you engage with other stakeholders and drive impacts for them.
  • Pick an accomplishment that you are personally passionate about because if you’re excited about that accomplishment your enthusiasm and your energy level will be higher in the interview and you’ll be more confident when talking about that accomplishment.
  • Select an accomplishment that connects with the job in some way.
  • Even if you pick a personal accomplishment, you can still connect it to the job in some way and the way to do that is to either talk about the actions that you took that are relevant to this  job or by talking about why you are proud of this  accomplishment (and connect that pride to the job.)